Long processing delays for newly-arrived migrant work
authorizations have placed an "increasing burden" on states,
their social safety net programs, and shelter systems, Attorney
General Andrea Campbell said Wednesday in a letter to the
Campbell penned the letter with 18 other state attorneys general
to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in an
effort to prompt action on work authorization permits for
immigrants who have been lawfully paroled into the United States.
The letter comes about a week after Gov. Maura Healey declared a
state of emergency in Massachusetts to deal with the high number
of migrants and displaced families seeking temporary housing
within the state's emergency shelter system.
Addressing processing delays, the attorneys general wrote in
their letter, will allow work-eligible migrants to become
"self-sufficient" as soon as possible and "not be forced to rely
on state resources."
The group said they have seen an unprecedented influx of
immigrant families from Latin America, Haiti, Ukraine, and the
Middle East. Most of the new arrivals are working-age adults who
are "eager to find employment" to support themselves and their
families, the prosecutors wrote.
"Many thousands of recent newcomers are eligible for work
authorization, but permission to work has been needlessly
delayed by inconsistencies in grants of parole and application
processing delays," the letter said. "The lack of work
authorization for many thousands who have arrived in our states
in recent months has caused many to rely on our social safety
The message was similar to one Healey delivered last week.
Healey paired her emergency declaration with an appeal to the
federal government for funding and to speed up the work
authorization approval process for migrants, which she said was
one of the primary drivers of the shelter difficulties.
It is not clear how much money Healey is looking for from the
Biden administration, but she made a point last week to call out
"burdensome barriers" to work authorizations.
"These new arrivals desperately want to work, and we have
historic demand for workers across all industries," Healey wrote
in her own letter to Mayorkas.
The 19 attorneys general asked Mayorkas to act in four areas -
expedite employment authorization for lawful parolees; address
inconsistent lengths of parole and streamline renewal; put in
place automatic work authorization renewals; and make fee
waivers available online.
The group also called on Mayorkas to "pursue executive action"
to increase funding for personnel and administrative efficiency
to "address the years-long backlogs in adjudication of asylum
and other forms of immigration relief."
"At the same time, we know that legislative action is needed to
effect comprehensive immigration reform that will fully address
these problems," the group wrote.
Campbell and the other attorneys general said many industries -
food services, retail, transportation, health care, and
hospitality - are struggling to find workers.
Expediting work authorizations, they said, would help meet
demands and reduce the risk that migrants are paid subminimum
wages, work in unsafe conditions, or have other workplace rights
Many who have arrived are seeking asylum, have been paroled into
the country, and are immediately eligible for work permits, the
group wrote. But processing delays "leave too many waiting 10
months or more for authorization."
"These delays are placing an increasing burden on states to
support families who would be able to support themselves
immediately if given the opportunity to do so," the attorneys
The letter called out Massachusetts specifically because of its
right-to-shelter law, which gives eligible homeless families a
right to placement in housing. Massachusetts had to
"significantly expand its emergency shelter system over the past
year" because of the large influx of migrant families without
work authorizations, the letter said.
The Healey administration opened two "welcome centers" in
Allston and Quincy to help connect newly-arrived families to
temporary and longer-term shelter as well as basic necessities.
"But these resources have been pushed to a breaking point
because many newcomers do not have and cannot expeditiously
procure the work authorization they need to transition to
self-sufficiency," the attorneys general wrote. "As a result,
the numbers of families requiring assistance continues to grow
without relief in sight."
States without right-to-shelter laws "may not experience the
same strain on housing resources as Massachusetts."
"But all states have been affected by delays in authorizing
work-eligible adults to work," the group wrote. "The long delays
in work permits for newcomers set us all up for failure and have
created a humanitarian crisis in our states and beyond."